MacDonald's been losing ground on recent Delderfield-ish efforts, with his last three (For They Shall Inherit, On a Far Wild Shore, The Silver Highways) called in these pages ""sprawling,"" ""plump,"" and ""bloated."" His newest--an empty-headed saga about an empress of early aviation--breaks the scales. She is Mrs. Julia Somerfield, wife of the owner of Somerfield & Sons, automotive engineers. He calls her ""girlie,"" and is pleased to keep her submerged in her favorite charity; but then George is paralyzed from the waist down in a factory accident, leaving Julia to learn that the bank's just about to put the whole firm under receivership. So Julia takes over, and through some slick financial maneuvering, moves the company into airplane design and construction. Soon, George dies with a devious young nurse, Imogen Davis, at his bedside. Julia has an affair with her chief designer, Eliot Baring. Out of the sack, they turn out a revolutionary kind of plane, the Fleetliner. Things seem flush, but then nurse Imogen returns for a bit of blackmail, and Julia slowly backs away from her own determination not to build war machines when she sees the Nazis at work in Germany. She tires of Eliot, falling instead for her sister's husband, the journalist Wallace Baker. (Eliot and sister Dolly end up a pair, too--tidy, that.) And to wind things up, there's the requisite takeover plot, foiled by Julia and friends. Pure drudgery, so over-ballasted with business machinations and aviation details that it never begins to make it off the ground.